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BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Is Clinton or Trump better for immigrants?


BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Is Clinton or Trump better for immigrants?

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Rocket science isn’t needed to figure out why Harold, a thirty-something Bajan in New York, would support Hillary Clinton if he were eligible to vote in the November presidential election.

For one thing, Donald Trump, Clinton’s Republican rival in the race to succeed United States (US) President Barack Obama in January, would kick out the Barbadian and 11 million other undocumented immigrants, sending them to at least 200 countries should he capture the White House.

For another, Clinton, the first woman with an excellent chance of becoming commander-in-chief, would push the US House of Representatives and the Senate to approve comprehensive immigration reform designed to give millions of undocumented residents the greenlight to become legal residents so they can live without fear of deportation in a land they consider a country of opportunity.

“I can’t vote because I am not a naturalised citizen,” Harold told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY a few days ago. 

“I want to remain here, keep my family intact and eventually become a naturalised citizen.  

“We all fear being detained and eventually deported to where we came from. Trump is bad news for us.

“Most of the undocumented immigrants from the Caribbean who share my fears are from the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti and Guyana and we are anxious about our future.

“I don’t believe Bajans account for more than 3 000 out of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. You fear the knock on the door or a visit at the workplace by an immigration agent. That’s no way to live.”

An assessment of the potential impact of Trump’s draconian immigration proposals, which range from the construction of a wall along the US-Mexican border and stringent entry requirements, to the deportation of all foreign-born persons who are in the country illegally,  and Clinton’s ideas show why Trump’s plan isn’t in America’s best interest. Clinton’s approach offers hope to people like Harold.

She would legalise their presence, provided they aren’t criminals, and open the immigration doors wider to their close relatives  and to those who are well trained and eager to support themselves.

A new report by America’s National Academies of Sciences which was released a few days ago, undercuts Trump’s main argument for a dramatic closure of the borders to more immigrants.

The billionaire Republican presidential nominee insists people who are in the country illegally “compete directly against vulnerable American workers” who are still trying to recover from the toughest economic recession since the 1920s and 1930s. He blames immigrants and Obama for their plight. Trump’s remedies would, he says, hike wages and “ensure open jobs” for “American workers first”.

He promises to create 25 million new jobs once in the White House but apart from cutting taxes for the wealthy and deporting immigrants while blocking Muslims from entering the country, he doesn’t spell out how he would achieve his goals.

The report, which was prepared by several leading economists, demographers and scholars, including George J. Borjas, a Harvard University economist, Dr. Francine Blau, a Cornell University professor, and Dr. Marta Tienda of Princeton university,  debunks Trump’s argument that immigrants are depriving Americans of employment.

The authors “found little to no negative effects on overall wages and employment of native born workers in the longer term”.

They insist skilled immigrants, especially those with high-tech training and a strong background in science, have had a “positive impact” on their American counterparts, especially the native-born working class people in the labour market. The presence of the foreigners was important, the report states, because they encouraged innovation which helps to create jobs.

There was more.

“The prospects for long-run economic growth in the United States would be considerably dimmed without the contributions of high skilled immigrants,” experts said.

But what about Harold’s relatives who encouraged him to come to the US?

The scholars, concluded that while first generation immigrants cost local governments more than the taxes they pay – the education of immigrant youngsters is the main burden to city and state administration – by the time the children become members of the second generation they pump about US$30 billion annually into government coffers. The third generation contributes even more, an estimated US$223 billion, a windfall for taxpayers.

Little wonder, then, that the experts describe immigration as being inextricably linked “to the nation’s economic growth stream” and to its prosperity.

How come? They bring their skills and creativity to the marketplace, giving it a boost at a time when it would otherwise have plummeted. Stated simply, they guarantee continued economic expansion.

There’s yet another aspect to all of this: immigration fuels population expansion which in turn helps the economy by providing low-wage workers for industry, new members for trade unions and fresh ideas to the equation.

Eduardo Porter, author of  the Economic Scene in the New York Times, warned that Trump’s anti-immigration plans were devoid of reality and would contribute to a decline in the US population causing it to fall to 323 million, a million fewer than it is today and 22 million fewer than what the US Census Bureau estimates it should be by 2024.

On the other hand, Clinton’s approach would accelerate population growth so much so that it would reach 360 million by 2024, up from today’s 324 million.

By legalising the undocumented, more foreigners, if you will, would be able to enter the country and join their families.

Harold, for instance, would be eligible to bring his daughter in Barbados to New York.

The immigration issue is bound to come up in the presidential debates and when it does you would see the marked differences between the candidate’s positions.